We work in the dark–we do what we can–we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
One of the questions I do battle with frequently is “Why read? Why study literature?”
My answers vary depending on the day from a deplorable ‘I don’t know, best keep going so I can find out‘ to the self-indulgent ‘Life is short, best do what you enjoy‘ to the slightly less navel-gazing notion that ‘It’s a useful lens to view the world through‘ to what is currently my best answer– ‘It reminds me that there is a world outside partisan beliefs. There is something universal, and you are a part of it.‘
It is disconcertingly easy to get ensnared by the us-versus-them mentality that’s everywhere. Sometimes as Americans we think we’re the special snowflakes who have more opinions and chosen-sides than others, but in reality I’m pretty sure partisanism is pandemic.
I’m not above being partisan, mind you, far from it. I am, however, conscious of three things: (1) that I am partisan, for deliberate, researched reasons; (2) the “other side” is rarely composed of morons– they, too, are thinking, researching people, who frequently are separated from me by their priorities and beliefs; (3) these “sides” are often artificial– they are gross simplifications, and very rarely does the world fit neatly into two or even three “sides” of thought or action.
The second realization is especially important. It is easy to pick sides, and even easier to denigrate the worth of the other side. It is essential that we resist the temptation to do so. So much of our world could be improved by respect for differing perspectives. So much could be improved just by moderating ourselves.
You don’t have to agree. You just have to strive to be respectful– something I fear is becoming a more and more distant, abstract concept in digital culture.
Though the second is arguably the most important point, I think the third is the one that gets the most frequently ignored– it’s too easy to fall into the mythos of us versus them, too easy to buy into the oversimplification. I believe that most people, myself included, have to actively fight partisan thinking in order to see around it at all.
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.